CAN: Squamish Nation grows with hydroponic container farm

A big bright orange container has just landed in the Squamish Nation community of X̱wemelch'stn in North Vancouver. While the outside of the 40-foot container is rather striking, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

The container is a Growcer hydroponic modular farm that will support the community's wellness by allowing them to grow a year-round supply of fresh produce, including leafy greens, herbs, and traditional medicinal plants.

Creating a sustainable healthy source of produce and increasing food sovereignty has long been a goal for the Squamish Nation, and the hydroponic farm is another piece of the puzzle, said Kelley McReynolds, director of Squamish Nation’s Ayás Méńmen Child and Family Services.

“Part of the reason that we started to look at ways that we could [provide food] was working from our values as Squamish people and our values around food sharing,” she said. “Traditionally, we as a community, and as families, would go out and hunt and we would gather out on the lands and the waters and we’d bring it back to our community and people would only take what they need, and the rest of it would be shared.”

Through the launch of a food distribution program about four years ago, McReynolds said the team began breaking down the stigmas and fears around food insecurity and shifting back to their traditional ways, to ensure everyone in the community felt comfortable receiving food. “We didn't want to look at the food as being a form of charity, or only for those who don’t have food,” she said.

Squamish Nation has looked at more traditional styles of farming and also has 19 garden boxes set up outside of their office where they grow fruit and vegetables and a traditional medicine garden. “We plant every year and we harvest that to give to the community,” McReynolds said. “We do a lot of training with our youth and our families to help them understand the plants, gardening, and harvesting."

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